Bobi Wine and need for alternative representation

Sunday September 9 2018


The fame of Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, commonly known as Bobi Wine, in less than two years has generated the kind of buzz and interest many politicians spend their entire political career lives only dreaming about. It helps his cause that he is challenging President YoweriMuseveni.

He has been successful so far as a politician by winning against both President Yoweri Museveni and FDC/Kiiza Besigye and all other “conventional” opposition parties/personalities, as far as by-elections and riding the moment are concerned, making me think of Tanzania’s political landscape and whether reality here can allow or give room to a politician like Bobi Wine.

He seems to have found his own niche, among the overcrowded political field. Just what is it about him that makes him resonate with so many everywhere he goes in Uganda? Whether he is just the flame of the moment or something that will endure is beside the point.

The current constitutional/legal set up in Tanzania does not allow an independent politician in sense of not being affiliated to a certain political party to emerge. One politician who moved his political tent from the opposition to CCM said as much in one interview, saying if it were possible he would not join any political party.

To achieve their dreams and aspirations, our politicians are constrained by the constitutional and legal requirements of belonging to a political party and being officially endorsed by it to stand for any election. This has given us so many political misfits within political parties but none would have the influence of Bobi Wine to voters. Sure enough, there have been musicians, past and present who were/are members of Parliament from both CCM and the opposition Chadema but none of them is anywhere close to influencing anyone beyond their political parties.

Some of them have risen because of the many mistakes CCM made in the past in particular constituencies like picking the wrong parliamentary candidate or the bitter political infighting which have cost them seats in places like Iringa, Arusha and Mbeya.

Politically speaking, it is possible for a Bobi Wine to emerge. The youth of Uganda share much of the same problems like most countries in Africa such as high unemployment and being disillusioned with those in power. Then again, there are stark differences in this country between rural and urban youths on how they perceive matters political.

Bobi Wine is an urban political creature though not part of the elites who have dominated Uganda politics for more than three decades. He is a product of what in Uganda has come to be seen as a “generational gap” between those who went to the bush to wage the war that propelled President Museveni to power and the majority of the voters today.

President Museveni has tried to woo them through occasional rap music and associating himself with some of the high priests and priestesses of popular culture in Uganda. However, when push comes to shove, he has failed to hide his contempt for them, referring to those agitating for change as “grandchildren”.

Like many political parties here, especially opposition parties, the individuals perched at the top of NRM and leading opposition parties in Uganda have not changed and when change has happened it has been “hereditary”, keeping things within the family, giving room for a Bobi Wine. While CCM has managed to change its leaders after every five years which somehow affords it some room to introduce new blood, and new people, it is far from catching the imagination of the young and the restless.

There are many who feel like being left out, not represented by the current politicians. There are many sane, intellectually and politically gifted people who find party politics too cumbersome, too petty to stomach. They would rather stay on the sidelines than join any political party.

They are too free spirited.

The need for an “alternative” political force, a third way as it were does not go away.